In search of elusive medievals, I ventured into the world of Harlequin Historicals and found some surprisingly great reads. I'm happy to report that this is one of them. Like all HH's the scope is local rather than epic, but this is not a wallpaper historical. At about 300 pages, it's quite meaty. Betrayals, swordfights, hangings, attacks on castles, and poisonings mean that there's a lot of action, and makes the setting convincingly medieval. You know you're not in a Regency ballroom here.
Elin's father is hanged as a traitor and the King forces her to marry his loyal knight to secure her castle. Malcolm saved the King's life on the Crusades at the cost of his own captivity and torture. He's a dark, brooding, scarred hero and I loved him. He's devoted to his King and cannot trust Elin because he doesn't know how involved she was in her father's schemes. Also someone is betraying the castle from within and he has learned from bitter experience not to put his trust in anyone. Elin makes steady progress of course in winning him over. I was a bit annoyed that he doubted her again near the end, but it was understandable because someone was doing a good job of framing Elin. And Malcolm did grovel nicely, which I always like in a hero.
Elin is a worthy heroine, with no TSTL moments. I liked her escape attempt while on the road with Malcolm and his men. I liked how the author steered away from making her a warrior - that type of heroine always annoys me. Elin swings a sword in defense and definitely feels the pain in her shoulder, those things were heavy! The sexual tension is good, the sex scenes are not particaularly graphic but they avoid the dreaded purple prose. The suspense plot was good and I wavered mightily between which of my 2 chief suspects, both longtime comrades of the hero's, was the secret villian. That part was well done.
So it came down to 4 or 5 stars. If this was a 'regular' book I might have given it 4 stars. But grading on my Harlequin scale, it's definitely a 5er. Enjoy!